Supporting BIPOC Businesses: Neighborhood Development Center
Neighborhood Development Center was founded nearly 30 years ago with the core belief that economic justice is achieved through entrepreneurship. That premise has been vetted like never before as the Covid-19 pandemic and the social unrest in 2020 disproportionately affected minority business owners—people who already face barriers to success.
The St. Paul-based organization deployed its four-pillar model of wraparound services—training, lending, technical assistance, and business incubators—for existing and new entrepreneurs during the pandemic. As of December 2021, NDC has trained close to 6,200 entrepreneurs, primarily in underinvested neighborhoods. Roughly 550 NDC alumni are currently in business and have created 4,000 jobs, including their own.
Most of the entrepreneurs NDC assists are immigrants, BIPOC, and low income. They often have a promising idea but don’t know where to start or lack the necessary capital to launch a business, says NDC president Renay Dossman. NDC provides start-up training in accounting, payroll, operations, marketing, and more.
Since its founding in 1993, NDC has approved 980 loans totaling $29 million. “Concentrated poverty needs concentrated opportunities” to successfully start a business, Dossman says. “I hope that it gives them a leg up and that it can level the playing field.”
That work became even more critical as businesses were shut down by Covid and widespread property damage after George Floyd’s murder. On top of these challenges, many NDC entrepreneurs had no website, social media outreach, food delivery infrastructure, or other systems that would help them continue to serve customers.
NDC pivoted to add new services. It launched Money Matters with the Lake Street Council to focus on small businesses’ fiscal operations and financial literacy. This need became especially apparent as clients struggled to quickly pull together financial records to take advantage of government services like Paycheck Protection Program loans, Dossman says.
The organization also created Mindset Reset to support the well-being of entrepreneurs and NDC employees during an extremely stressful time. Sixty percent of the organization’s employees are BIPOC, and many share the backgrounds and experiences of NDC’s entrepreneurs.
Business incubators like the Midtown Global Market have long been an important part of NDC’s work. The organization reduced rent during the pandemic to continue supporting its tenants. In 2022, NDC opened its newest incubator, Frogtown Crossroads in St. Paul, which includes its headquarters and a new Entrepreneur Training Center.
While NDC helps individuals, it also works to play a macro role in the community by reducing the generational wealth gap for BIPOC people, Dossman says. “We really believe in this model and its ability to provide entrepreneurs with the resources they need.”